Research Paper: Applying Appreciative Inquiry In Parent Coaching

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Research Paper By Ayca Ulku
(Life Fulfillment Coach, UNITED STATES)


There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein

This paper is about using Appreciative Inquiry in Parent Coaching. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) has been used in many organizations, corporations, community organizations and school settings successfully. The success can be defined in terms of supporting positive, long-term change, offering hope, creativity, inspiration. This paper discusses the principles and concepts of AI and then using the principles and methods of AI in parent coaching. Appreciative Inquiry can be used as part of coaching and an approach to living.

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. Voltaire

AI is developed by David Cooperrider and other graduate students at Case Western Reserve University in the 1990’s.

Since the appearance of AI twenty years ago, researchers and practitioners have described it in many ways. It has been called a philosophy, a revolutionizing force, a transformational change process, a life giving theory or practice, and even a new world-view[1].

Let’s look the definitions and use of the two words “Appreciate” and “Inquiry”:

Ap-pre’ci-ate,v.,1. Valuing ; the act of recognizing the best in people or the world around us ; affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potentials; to perceive those things that give life (health, vitality, excellence) to living systems 2.

To increase in value, e.g. the economy has appreciated in value. Synonyms: VALUING, PRIZING, ESTEEMING, and HONORING.

In-quire’ (kwir),v.,

  1. The act of exploration and discovery.
  2. To ask questions; to be open to seeing new potentials and possibilities.


Under the light of these core definitions, AI can be described as given below:

Appreciative Inquiry is the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discover of what gives a system ‘life’ when it is most effective and capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to heighten positive potential. It mobilizes inquiry through crafting an “unconditional positive question’ often involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people.[3]

Appreciative Inquiry deliberately seeks to discover people’s exceptionality – their unique gifts, strengths, and qualities. It actively searches and recognizes people for their specialties – their essential contributions and achievements. And it is based on principles of equality of voice – everyone is asked to speak about their vision of the true, the good, and the possible. Appreciative Inquiry builds momentum and success because it believes in people. It really is an invitation to a positive revolution. Its goal is to discover in all human beings the exceptional and the essential. Its goal is to create organizations that are in full voice![4]

AI is a cycling four staged model: Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny. It is called four-D model.

The 4-D Model

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) can be a formal process or an informal conversation, but at the core all AI conversations follow the four-D model shown in Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1. The 4-D Model

Prior to an Appreciative Inquiry, a topic must be selected, which then moves the inquiry into the Discovery phase. The Discovery phase is the first step and looks at the whole system, with all stakeholders, and asks what is working? (D.L. Cooperrider & Whitney,2005,pp.25-26).

The Dream Phase asks,

what are the possibilities? (D.L. Cooperrider & Whitney,2005,pp.26-28).

The Design phase looks at the organizational design and makes propositions on how to realize the expressed dream (D.L. Cooperrider & Whitney,2005,pp.28-31). The Destiny phase enables the system to build hope and sustain momentum for ongoing positive change and high performance (D.L. Cooperrider & Whitney,2005,pp.34-35).[5]

AI is first developed for the organizations and the terms used in definitions are mostly organizational terms. The studies around the model have shown that is successful in making changes in organizations. But then it is seen that AI is also effective in making changes in personal lives. In this paper the goal is to show that it can be used in parent coaching.

Laura Michaelson founded the center of Appreciative Parenting to coach parents on using the principles of AI with their children. Michaelson (2007) notes that she has seen the ripple effect of asking children positive questions with two foster children that lived with her for several weeks; Michaelson asked them each day what the favorite part of their day was and noticed that the use of this question changed the girls’ perspectives.[6]

Families are the smallest social systems in the society. They can also be seen as a type of organization.

But the bottom line is very different than the typical organization, and the bottom line for each family varies. The bottom line for a family is more like the goals and expectations of the system as a whole and of each individual member of the family [7].

What is Parent Coaching?

Being a parent is the most rewarding and the most important job in a person’s life. On the other hand it is the most challenging job in the world. Every parent wants to do their best and give their children the best. They don’t want to do any mistakes. Being the best, giving the best brings a lot of stress with. Also most of today’s parents don’t want to raise their children with grandma’s methods. Trying to be perfect is very tiring and is not very helpful in keeping self confidence.

Parent coaching is a new and innovative approach to solving problems that affect all mothers and fathers. Main issue is that parents are not being confident in their own behavior. They’re not sure if they’re doing their job well enough, and this insecurity can be taken advantage of by their children. So coaches try to teach parents relationship skills which will help them respond well to their children. Parent-coaching helps the parents to gain skills and knowledge providing a positive framework to allow you to focus on solutions.